BY Michael Eli Dokosi, 1:00pm August 23, 2020,

Why the Huli Wigmen of PNG grow their hair and then cut it off to make flamboyant wigs

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Papua New Guinea’s approximately 312 diverse tribes are increasingly drawing in global people thanks to their unique ways and increasing tourist attractions. The Huli Wigmen, who have lived in the Tari region of the southern highlands for approximately 1,000 years, are one of those sure draws. Clan members consider themselves as one person descended from a male ancestor named Huli.

For starters, the ethnic group has a unique process for preparing men for adulthood. From eight years, boys move to stay with their fathers and learn to become men.

Bachelor school starts at 14 or 15, where the boys learn about the biological and ritual processes of becoming a man. “During this time, they are forbidden from contact with any women, including their mothers,” according to a report. “It’s believed that a combination of magic and a special diet help the young male transition into a man and help his hair grow extra quickly,” the report adds.

Grooming male hair to grow quickly, it is wet three times a day, “with the young man singing as he uses fern leaves to sprinkle his hair with water.”

The lad is forbidden from consuming pig’s heart or fat or spicy foods but crucially, “he must sleep on his back with his head on a brick so he doesn’t squish his locks as they grow.”

As the hair of the young adult grows, “it is gradually shaped, using a circular band of bamboo, into a shape resembling a toreador’s hat. After 18 months, it is clipped off close the scalp and woven into a traditional Huli wig by the wig master.”

Usually, parrot feathers or red ocher are added to the wig. The catch however is that all of a man’s wigs must be created before he is married, whether they are everyday wigs or special, ceremonial wigs. The wig therefore symbolizes manhood.

For the unfortunate who lack hair despite their best efforts, the wigs can be sold. The tribe operates by choosing leaders rather than chiefs.

Huli wigman.jpg
via Wikimedia Commons

Based in the Hela Province of Papua New Guinea, the Huli speak primarily Huli and Tok Pisin and are estimated to be over 250,000.

Aside from their traditional headdresses, the Huli Wigmen decorative hair can include bird feathers and grasses. 

Europeans discovered the Huli in November 1934 when about fifty of them were killed by adventurers looking for gold.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 23, 2020


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